Two years ago the Orlando Magic traded Serge Ibaka for Terrence Ross, now they match up in the 2019 NBA Playoffs and it seems as if the move worked for both teams.
The move was highly questionable.
At the time, Terrence Ross was a bench player for a Toronto Raptors team that featured DeMar DeRozan at the starting shooting guard position. Although Terrence Ross would never get starting minutes, he still would shine at times. He just was not as talented as DeRozan or able to chase down that 50-point game he had earlier in his career.
On the flip side, Serge Ibaka was forced into a mish-mashed starting lineup after an offseason trade that sent Victor Oladipo out of Orlando. It created a logjam at forward that pushed Aaron Gordon to small forward. A position he struggled with in the majority of his minutes that year.
It was not a pairing that worked and the Magic quickly cratered in the standings as they headed for another lost season. The move would eventually be part of the reason the team let go of general manager Rob Hennigan and set out for a new course.
Ross arrived in Orlando and immediately made an impact. His shooting and working off cuts changed a lot of the Magic’s offense immediately. An injury in his second season knocked him out for most of the season. His efforts in the offseason to prove he was healthy were a big benefit for him and the Magic.
Ross was one of the best bench players in the NBA. He is averaging 10.5 points per game for his career. But this year he averaged 15.1 points per game for the Magic. He hit on 38.3 percent of his 3-pointers, catching fire at opportune times to spark the magic to several victories throughout the season.
Even with that burst from Ross, the Raptors would hardly say they did poorly in the deal either.
Ibaka has not been bad either, he averaged 15.0 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for the second best team in the Eastern Conference.
He will never be the same defender he was with the Oklahoma City Thunder. But he is a great role player to have on a team at this point in his career.
His willingness to go to the bench as Pascal Siakam emerged and the team acquired Marc Gasol has Toronto on the verge of advancing to the second round and making a serious push for an Eastern Conference title.
The playoff matchup
In this series, the two respected franchises have had a chance to see just how valuable each of the players are on one of the biggest stages in basketball. This is when general managers can see just what they invested in and if the player they invested in panned out.
The investment for Ross has paid off for the Magic for sure.
In Game 1, Ross played 25 minutes off the Magic bench and scored 10 points in a thrilling upset win over the Raptors. He also had six rebounds and two assists. Ibaka only had five points and eight rebounds in 19 minutes of play.
Every one of Ross’ points were needed for the 104-101 road win against the second-seeded team in the Eastern Conference.
In Game 2, Ross came off of the bench and gave life to a struggling Magic team, he scored 15 points in 27 minutes of play. The only time the Magic offense felt alive was during his second-quarter stint.
Ibaka scored 13 points in 24 minutes of play. He was part of the defensive unit that slowed down Nikola Vucevic and hit several big shots to stake the Raptors a big lead.
Although the Magic got the breaks beat off of them in this game, Ross continued to be himself, played his part and contributed to the team. He has been the most consistent out of all the players in this series. His leadership is something that is needed to empower and inspire starters like Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier.
In Game 3, Ross was spectacular in a loss against the Raptors.
He was one of the best players on the court Friday night and can now say he has led a Playoff team in scoring as he scored 24 points in 32 minutes. His half-court shot before halftime got the arena buzzing and kept the team afloat.
Ibaka only had six points in 21 minutes in Game 3. But his team has Kawhi Leonard who finished with a double-double with 16 points and 10 boards and Pascal Siakam finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds. Ibaka played his role helping the Raptors bench hold things steady.
Ibaka’s defense helped key a 16-0 run that allowed the Raptors to take firm control over that game. This came after he struggled to contain Nikola Vucevic, who scored 14 of his series-high 22 points in the third quarter. Ibaka stepped up after Gasol hit foul trouble and set up the Raptors’ win.
In Game 4, Ibaka outplayed Ross and contributed 13 in a win while Ross had a terrible game only scoring five points in a must-win Playoff game. Ibaka’s contributions off the bench were the main difference to allow the Raptors to pull away for a comfortable win.
A true win-win
For the most part, Ross has been one of the best players on the court for the Magic in 2019 despite his teammates’ inconsistency.
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The team looked defeated after a five-point loss in Amway Center on Friday night, but the organization has exceeded expectations this year, considering the inconsistent health of Mohamed Bamba and Markelle Fultz, two players who if healthy would have contributed in this series and figure to be big parts of the team’s future.
Ross had his best year since he has been in the NBA in Orlando. A lot of this has to do with Steve Clifford and his coaching staff. Although Ross has not started one game this year, he is clearly the number one option once the starters go to the bench. And he finishes games late as the Magic look for some offensive punch.
He played in Game 2 like he had a chip on his shoulder, he kept the Magic within striking distance in the first half. He can score the basketball above the rim or outside on the perimeter.
He did similar things in Toronto, but not to this level. This year he a top candidate for the 2018-19 NBA Sixth Man of the Year award. His teammates call him the “Human Torch” and his quickfire shooting ability has won the Magic more than a few games. It nearly helped them steal Game 3 at the end.
He looks to be on fire every time he steps onto the court, and defenses respect his perimeter game more than they do some of the stars in the league.
A lot of the reason the Magic and Ibaka failed to work out had to do with Aaron Gordon’s lack of perimeter shooting in a new-age NBA that forces all perimeter players to shoot from distance.
He has a more developed perimeter shot in 2019. But in 2017 that was not the case. Gordon has improved as an overall basketball player since then.
Ibaka has slowed down plenty since then. He is not nearly the impactful defensive player he once was — although you would not know it with how he erased a Gordon dunk attempt in Game 4. The Raptors have found the perfect use for him to boost their roster.
But it is safe to say the Magic won that trade between Ibaka and Ross after watching the series. However, both teams are reaping the rewards.